When Thomas (not his real name) was a young staff member at an organization that worked directly with youth, his boss had an unusual approach to staff retreats: bring your spouse. At first this seemed odd – wasn’t the purpose of the staff retreat to get colleagues together for team building and strategic planning? And wouldn’t Thomas’ wife’s presence be a distraction?
His boss saw it differently, essentially saying, “I know this job demands a lot. If the work has the support of your spouse, and if you as a couple agree on how to handle work/life balance, you’ll be a better colleague.”
When I heard this story from Thomas, five years ago, his boss’s approach seemed exceptional. Perhaps, instead, it was an idea ahead of its time.
A new survey, released on May 23rd by Net Impact, says next to financial security, marriage is what most workers feel they need to be happy.
|Financial security, marriage, and meaningful work: ingredients of a happy workforce.
(Graphic taken from Net Impact’s executive summary of this study.)
Additionally, work/life balance is the most important element of the ideal job, said survey respondents. The survey, titled Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, looked at a statistically-significant sample of 1726 recent graduates, as well as employed workers from three different generations.
Could Work Make Your Marriage Better?
This research caught my eye, because I have two areas research interest: business and marriage. As the corporate relations advisor for the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, I support executives who are working to improve employee engagement and workforce culture; and I often blog about related topics at this site. In my personal life, I research and blog about marriage at the site my husband and I started, www.weddedness.com. Suddenly, with one statistical set, my two worlds were colliding.
Marriage, like a career, has its ups and downs. Is there anyway your company could help make your marriage a little less volatile? A little more rewarding? And, in turn, by having a happier marriage, could you also be a happier employee? This data set suggests that possibility.
So how could companies support your personal relationships in a way that is non-invasive? Here is a short list of suggestions:
- Don’t reward overwork: create a culture that does not expect employees to be “on” around the clock; enforce vacation-taking.
- Make it easy to bring a partner on a work trip: provide time and means for family dinners, with easy options for an employee to repay the organization for the partner’s expenses. Allow extra time for site-seeing or beach-lounging.
- Provide easy access to professional counseling: most health plans allow for counseling services, but employees may not realize this can be a rich path for improving and enhancing their relationship. Share information about local resources and your health plans’ coverage.
- Celebrate milestones: send anniversary cards, invite partners to the Christmas party.
- Follow the lead of Thomas’ boss: consider hosting optional day-long retreats for employees and their partners, with sessions led by relationship experts.
This topic has the potential to make some people a little squeamish: we want to keep the company out of our bedrooms. But perhaps your workplace can enhance your relationships, and maybe the richness of your marriage will make you a better employee. Certainly it will make you a happier one. So should your company care more about your marriage? The answer is Yes.
Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership‘s corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about marriage and other topics on her personal blog.